An Aboriginal Physics View on AFGHANISTAN
An aboriginal physics viewpoint on Afghanistan is on a level deeper than the mainstream news reporting. It is at the level of our basic understanding of dynamics. Any dynamic situation can be examined from the point of view wherein we no longer look at dynamics in terms of ‘causal agents’, but instead acknowledge that the causal agents are not ‘causal’ but are the ‘result’ rather than the ‘cause’ of the (turbulent) flow they are included in.
The analogy which has been discussed elsewhere in these pages is in medicine, where Pasteur and Béchamp argued that ‘the pathogen is nothing, the terrain is everything’. If we take ‘Al Qaeda’ and ‘the Taliban’ to be the pathogens, we would say that these pathogens are nothing, the global dynamic is everything. Their proliferation is the result of conditions in the terrain being fertile for their proliferation.
What are the implications of this ‘inverted’ view of the situation?
This means that one cannot examine issues starting from what the current ‘cast of players’ (Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the US, the other ISAF countries, the Afghan government and the Pakistan governments) are doing.
The Taliban is the ‘result’ of turbulence in the region, not the cause.
The historical origins of conflict in Afghanistan go back to the so-called ‘Great Game’ between the British and Russian Empires. The Great Game is a term used for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running approximately from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1813. A second, less intensive phase followed the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. (source Wikipedia)
‘Strategic rivalry’ for supremacy in Central Asia was picked up by the US as the power of the ‘British Lion’ declined and both Al Qaeda and the Taliban gained strength by the US attempt to oust Russia from its occupation of Afghanistan. Obama, in his speech yesterday, passes over this historical fact, but nevertheless implies that Al Qaeda and the Taliban were seen as ‘small fry’ during the time the US was focused on using any and all means possible to end the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. In other words, ‘strategic rivalry’ with the ‘evil communist USSR regime’ was the primary US motivation and not ‘the liberation of the Afghan people’; i.e. the US focus ‘turned elsewhere’ after the Russian defeat. In Obama’s words yesterday; “Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban — a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere.”
The purpose of including this historic background is not intended to suggest that we can ‘make sense of all of this’ in our ‘standard western way of thinking’, but to point out the problem in the causal model and the notion of the ‘causal agent’ (which is the same problem that arises from the over-simplicity of our general notion of ‘organism’, ‘human organism’ and ‘self’). For example, the Taliban is the result of turbulence in the region, not the cause of it. This is the general case, in aboriginal physics; i.e. Western enlightenment society substituted ‘representations’ of things for the observed/experienced things and thus, we think of the storm-cell (hurricane) as being this substitute representation, portrayed as a ‘local system with its own local agency’, artificially and FALSELYconverting it from ‘the result of the flow it is included in’ to the ‘cause of the flow it is included in’.
In aboriginal physics, there are no ‘local, independently existing things’ with their own local agency, there is instead, a conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation;
The ‘strategic alliances’ that are commonly employed in ‘strategic rivalry’s depend on the notion of ‘loyalty’ which implies the persisting ‘definition’ and ‘identity’ of a thing.
There has always been a problem with the concept of ‘loyalty’ in that it conflicts with ‘impartiality’ or ‘justice’.
The root of this problem is clearly seen in the aboriginal physics view, since there is nothing in nature that has persisting identity (nature is a fluid-dynamic, a continuously unfolding energy-field-flow).
If your friend Rob rapes his date and you, by chance come upon the scene, are you bound by loyalty not to ‘snitch’ on him? Is there a conflict between ‘loyalty’ and ‘impartiality’?
Examining further the concept of ‘loyalty’ (as it arises in ‘strategic alliances’), when the US found out that Saddam Hussein (who was then their ally in strategic rivalry with Iran) had gassed thousands of Iraqi Kurds (Halabja, 1988) they not only said nothing (refused to condemn Iraq) but proceeded to continue to build diplomatic and economic relations with Iraq.
Why had the United States not acted then?
“Years later James Baker explained: “Had we attempted to isolate Iraq,” Secretary of State James Baker wrote later, “we would have also isolated American businesses, particularly agricultural interests, from significant commercial opportunities.”
Samantha Power (Pulitzer prize winning author of ‘A Problem From Hell: America in the Age of Genocide”) mordantly comments: “[After the Halabja gassing] Hussein locked up another $1 billion in agricultural credits. Iraq became the ninth largest purchaser of U.S. farm products…. As Baker put it gently in his memoirs, ‘Our administration’s review of the previous Iraq policy was not immune from domestic economic considerations.'”
Now, in the Western world view, we do not question the persistence of the identity of one of our defined and name-labelled ‘representations’ such as ‘hurricane Katrina’ or Rob or Iraq, … but in the aboriginal physics view, as in the reality of our experience, the ‘definition and name-label’ is nothing other than a ‘pointer’ to a dynamical form that is being continually redefined through its conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation.
Just because our friend Rob’s name ‘Rob’ and our previous ‘definition’ of him persist before during and after the rape, does not mean that the dynamical-form-called-Rob has any aspect at all that persists other than its general appearance, since it is being continually defined/redefined by the web of spatial relationships it is included in. What persists, as is evident from reflecting on the nature of a storm-cell in the flow of the atmosphere is ‘the conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation’, the uniquely-appearing form that is unique due to its unique situational inclusion in the flow-continuum. But there is no doubt that it’s behaviour is conditioning the dynamics of the habitat it is included in at the same time as the dynamics of the habitat are conditioning its behaviour (Mach’s principle).
THERE IS A PROBLEM IN SUBSTITUTING REPRESENTATIONS FOR CONTINUALLY TRANSFORMING DYNAMICAL FORMS. The problem is that the representations imply persisting identity; i.e. they imply a model wherein the ‘organism’ (or ‘system’) is a locally existing entity with its own locally originating causal agency’. (Such a view rests dependently on the abstract notion of absolute space; i.e. where we lift the dynamical form out of its inclusion in interdependent web of spatial relations and re-represent it as if it were standing there on its own so that its behaviour derived from ‘its own internal sourcing’; i.e. we see it as if it is fully and solely responsible for its own behaviour).
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The western view is that dynamics can be ‘understood’ in terms of a cast of independent characters with persisting identities that interact within an absolute fixed and empty space. This is the view that is presented in the media when it comes to situations such as in Afghanistan. The variety of views derives from the manner in which the different role players are ‘characterised’; i.e. whether as ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ etc.
The ‘plans’ for ‘what to do’ are based on this model and so they depend upon these characterizations. As in a play, the ‘characters’ are presumed to be ‘inbuilt’ into the named role-players. Actors are encouraged to first absorb the inner ‘character’ of the role, and then to let one’s behaviour and utterances be continually shaped by the innate ‘character’ during the unfolding of the play. Occasionally, plays will feature a transformation-of-character, as in Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’, but generally speaking, the ‘character’ of the individual is assumed to ‘be sourced from within him’ and persists over time.
In the case of Iraq, since there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in everything, Iraq was originally assessed by the US as ‘one of us good guys’ (one of the ‘crony club’), and loyalty to this assessment persists; e.g. as James Baker also said;
“Diplomacy–as well as the American psyche–is fundamentally biased toward “improving relations.” Shifting a policy away from cooperation toward confrontation is always a more difficult proposition–particularly when support for existing policy is as firmly embedded among various constituencies and bureaucratic interests as was the policy toward Iraq.”
Note that ‘improving relations’, as Baker used it, is not about ‘improving global relations seen as one interdependent web’ but implicitly about ‘improving relations within and across the crony club of ‘good guys’ in the world’, so that the world might one day be filled with nothing other than ‘us good guys’.
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There are clearly ‘problems’ with definitions here. Should we think in terms of being loyal to our friend Rob who has just raped his date, or should we think in the aboriginal physics terms that ‘this is no longer the same Rob’, … that ‘Rob’ is a name that we use to point to something that is being continually reinvented in the continual unfolding of nature’s dynamic. Like the storm-cell in the flow, the dynamical form called ‘Rob’ that cannot be understood as a thing-in-its-own-right, but must be understood as a ‘conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation’, a thing whose behaviour is being conditioned by the dynamics of the habitat it is included in at the same time as its behaviour is conditioning the dynamics of the habitat.
Who is Rob? Who are ‘we’? Who is ‘the Taliban’?
These questions are particularly relevant when it comes to the Western world view that uses representations of things taken to be local causal agents whose interactions determine the world dynamic.
Given that we have ‘stuck ourselves’ with this over-simplistic model based on notional ‘local organisms with their own local causal agency’, we, as a culture, have tried to find some ‘principles’ for managing this ‘notional mess’. This attempt is nicely captured in Robert Pirsig’s book ‘Lila’, where he takes us through the things we have tried. First we concluded that allowing biological emotions to provide the principles of social dynamics management did not lead to the society we wanted. Then, we tried to apply morals and ethics as in the Victorian cultural era based on suppressing biological emotions. But that didn’t make any sense ‘intellectually’ and then we allowed ‘intellectual argument’ rise to dominance (e.g. the breakdown of the Victorian culture in the ‘hippie’ era of the 1960s) however, pure intellectual reasoning is pure stark logic and when it is put into primacy over the behaviour-shaping biological emotions (mother’s love for children, natural fear/respect for others etc.) and the behaviour-shaping moral and ethical codes, puts no obstacles in the way of pure logical actions such as the Manson murders, Hitler’s ‘final solution’ for the Jews etc.
So, how do we manage this ‘cast of characters’. Strategic alliances are based on ‘loyalty’ to persisting identities; e.g;
“My friend Rob is a big strong guy and a ‘good guy’ who has protected me many times when I would otherwise have been beaten up by good-for-nothing thugs. I don’t want Rob to be taken ‘out of circulation’ I need him as a continuing friend. Rita, his date seemed like a nice girl but nice girls can be ‘dirty girls’ in the privacy of the bedroom and she probably teased Rob to the point that he lost control and thus the ‘rape’ that ensued was more ‘her fault’ than his. Rob is, overall, ‘a good guy’ and I am not going to bear witness against him in any way that might help those who want to ‘bring him down’.”
Of course, as Mark Twain observed, there are basic problems with putting ‘loyalty’ above ‘impartiality’;
“Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world — and never will.”
Which brings us back to this question; Is the model for dynamics that the Western culture is using for understanding the world dynamic, this model in terms of the interactions of notional local organisms/organisations, notionally with ‘their own local causal agency’, a sound model?
The answer, from the aboriginal physics point of view is a resounding NO!
The dynamical forms to which we assign definitions and names are not ‘local things in themselves’ (‘local causal agents with their own inboard driven (internal purpose-directed) behaviours’). This is idealisation that we are confusing for ‘reality’.
Take the Taliban. As mentioned above, the Taliban is the RESULT of turbulence in the region rather than the CAUSE of turbulence. This is intended in the sense of Mach’s principle wherein “the dynamics of the habitat condition the dynamics of the inhabitants at the same time as the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat.” There is a simultaneous reciprocal ‘conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation’ here that prevents us, REALISTICALLY, for lifting out the dynamical forms, defining and naming them and thence regarding them as ‘local causal agents’ operating in their own right’. These so-called ‘local causal agents’ are, in reality, strands in a dynamically unified web of spatial relations.
They habitat-dynamics not only gave birth to the Taliban but continue to animate the behaviour of the Taliban. As Emerson says in his ‘Method of Nature’, the genius of nature not only animates the behaviour of the organism, it creates the organism.
The more that the US has antagonized locals by killing civilians in air-strikes against the Taliban, the more the Taliban has grown.
Given that the birth of the Taliban has roots in the so-called ‘Great Game’ between the British and Russian Empires, and that it is evident that the Taliban is the RESULT of the turbulence in the region moreso than the cause of it, we might ask; ‘Who/what will the Taliban be’ in 2011?
No doubt, ‘who/what it will be’ will be shaped by the continuing actions of US and allied troops, how much collateral damage to civilians occurs, and the degree to which the 200 million people in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region (Afghanistan-28m), (Pakistan -172m) will encourage their sons to cast their lot in with the US or resist doing so.
Since the projected peak ratio of US and allied troops of 130,000 (2010) will be in a ratio of 1:292 relative to the roughly 38 million males in the 15-40 yr age group, and since military analysts cite the fact that difficult counter-insurgencies (Ireland, Burma, Kosovo) have required (20 military per 1000 population, or 1:10 relative to the 15-40 year male population, we can assume that the insurgency in the region clearly has all kinds of room to ‘get worse’. (Insurgency control in Ireland, Burma, Kosova required one military man for every ten fighting age males. In Obama’s 2010 peak deployment of insurgency control troops in Afghanistan/Pakistan, there will be one military man for every three hundred fighting age males; i.e. if the military initiative has the effect of ‘poking a stick into a wasp’s nest, … there is huge scope for escalation in the insurgency’).
A simple objective to ‘defeat the Taliban’ seems subject to becoming one of these ‘petrified opinions’ that fails to acknowledge that the Taliban is the RESULT of continuing turbulence in the region moreso than the CAUSE.
But what is this that Obama has said in his speech yesterday?
“Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.”
Notwithstanding the unmentioned role of the US and Britain before it, in creating the habitat dynamic that has given birth to the Taliban, does this not sound like one of these ‘petrified opinions’ that Mark Twain is talking about?
If the friend “Rob’ (the loyal cohort in the crony collective or ‘strategic alliance’) says ‘I didn’t mean to do it, I lost control’, does that exonerate him and preserve his ‘overall good guy’ status? How about soldiers that kill innocent women and children in the ‘collateral damage’ driven by the petrified opinion to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda”
This ‘defeat of Al Qaeda’ further implies the ‘defeat of the Taliban’ since, as Obama further says;
“Over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating attacks of terrorism against the Pakistani people.”
Do you get the impression that Obama, HERE IN THIS PASSAGE, speaks of ‘the Taliban’ as if it is a ‘local causal agent’ in-its-own-right?, rather than something, NOT ONLY whose behaviour is the result of turbulence in the region but which was born from the turbulence in the region?
But in the following passage, it appears as if ‘the Taliban’ can be REDEEMED if they give themselves up and convert to the ways of the ‘crony alliance of good guys’, the same sort of proposition that colonizers offered to aboriginals in the colonization of the Americas – ‘embrace our faith and our God-blessed authority or prepare to die like dogs’ In Obama’s ‘softer’ words;
“We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens.”
But given that Obama is taking advice from the US military which is based on a ‘successful offensive’, is there a chance that US military leadership may be so focused on ‘winning military strategies’ (an ‘ends-justifies-the-means’ approach with high associated ‘collateral damage’ to the civilian population) that the US and its allies could become the victim of their own ‘petrified opinion’? That is, is there a chance that the US and ISAF actions in seeking to eliminate the Taliban (now estimated at 25,000 strong) could actually swell its (and other contra-US faction) ranks?
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In all of the above discussion, language has been used which could be interpreted ‘literally’, so that an impression could be gained that ‘the author is anti-US’ or ‘anti-Obama’ etc. However, the thrust of this aboriginal physics viewpoint on Afghanistan is to say that the Western way of modeling social dynamics IS BROKE AND IN NEED OF REPLACEMENT, so that there is little point in getting serious about all of the pro and con arguments that the media bombards us with. The issue is not about ‘getting rid of Al Qaeda’ and their harbourers ‘the Taliban’, it is about cultivating and sustaining harmony in the interdependent web-of-life which not only animates our behaviours but which creates us. More realistic appoaches to resolving conflict await a rise in awareness of the bankruptcy of our model of dynamics, with its focus on ‘strategic alliances’ whereby ‘good’ can drive out ‘evil’ that is based on petrified notions of the identity/character of the players.
“Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world — and never will.”
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[obama picture – ABC news]